- Note - If the missile center and launch
facilities are this bad...how reliable are those 12 Chinese ICBMs reportedly
targeted on the US right now?
- Communist China's satellite launch centre
lacks basic safety features and poses a constant danger to US technicians
and thousands of peasants living nearby, according to newly declassified
White House documents.
- The searing assessment of the Xichang
Satellite Launch Centre was written by an engineer for the satellite consortium
Intelsat, according to White House officials. Intelsat was using Chinese
rockets to launch US-built commercial satellites into orbit.
- The launch facilities "fell pathetically
short of the world standard in most areas", the engineer wrote. "Every
time you launch, you stand a good chance of killing someone."
- Citing often-fatal mishaps, the engineer,
Daniel Lilienstein, wrote: "This kind of callous disregard for human
life is unconscionable and should not be supported by satellite operators."
- Writing in March 1996, soon after the
crash of a Long March rocket that was carrying a satellite built by Loral
Space and Communications, Mr Lilienstein filed a report on hazards at the
- His assessment was part of a 6,000-page
collection of documents sent on Friday by the White House to congressional
committees investigating the February 1996 crash.
- It portrays the launch centre as "a
make-do kind of place" which was poorly equipped and staffed by under-trained
- Mr Lilienstein described uninsulated
wiring, workers suffering frequent electrical shocks, windows exploding
at the time of the crash and a real danger that the falling spacecraft
could have slammed down on the mission control centre.
- The rocket exploded 22 seconds after
lift-off, carrying with it the US$200 million (HK$1.5 billion) Loral satellite
which was to be used by Intelsat, a Washington-based, 122-country communication
- After the crash, which killed nearly
100 people in a nearby village, Mr Lilienstein and other engineers staggered
around in a darkened building, its windows blown in and some of its doors
no longer working.